Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Outlaw Triathlon - Part 2: Event Review

This is one of a three part set of posts about my first iron distance triathlon: Outlaw Triathlon 2017. This post contains my review of the event. You can also read about my training and the analysis of my race performance.

The Outlaw Triathlon is an iron distance event (2.4 mile lake swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) that takes place at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham, UK. This was the 8th year of the event and my first time participating in any long distance triathlon.

Pre-Race Communication

I booked the event back in August 2016 and didn't think much more about it other than having a QR code saved in the Passport section of my iPhone. However, as the event started to get closer the level of communications from OSB Events gradually picked up and my excitement began to mount.

The final weeks had a lot more info arriving, more social media activity and a buzz beginning to build around the race. A couple of weeks before race day the race info pack came out. This was a very comprehensive document and answered pretty much everything you could want to know about the race weekend. The only question I came up with not covered in the pack was whether we would have access to all our kit bags on the morning of the race. A quick tweet to the organisers was answered in minutes with an affirmative. Great communications.

Probably the only (minor) fault that I could find is that the on-site camping at Holme Pierrepont doesn't allow you to pre-book a camping pitch. It's just a case of turn up at the weekend and hope the field isn't full – with advice to make sure you have a backup plan! Not the best way to keep race weekend stress to a minimum. I therefore didn't risk the camping and managed to grab a spare room with some friends 30 minutes away from the venue, meaning a very early start on race day. The ability to reserve a camping spot would be a great improvement.

Registration, Racking and Race Briefing

As with most long distance triathlon events, registration, racking and race briefings are done on the Saturday. It's a great way to get familiar with the site layout, find the routes through transition and reduce race day stress. Loads of on-site parking at the venue is also a bonus and reduces walking distances the day before a race.

Registration was flawless. In and out in less than a minute with a nice Outlaw Triathlon branded blueseventy swim backpack thrown in for good measure. Nice large transition kit bags easily held everything I was going to need for the day. The transition area is massive with more then enough space for the bike. Excellent change tent as well with clear labelling of pegs for kit bags. All-in-all a great set-up for a transition area.

The 14:00 race briefing was slightly delayed, which some people with waiting families found a bit frustrating. However when it did get under way I found it well structured and very informative. I definitely came away feeling much more comfortable with the routes, transition process and feed station set-up than I had from just reading the race pack. Slightly bemused by the question from one competitor related to what to do if you weren't wearing any clothes under your wetsuit!

Couldn't really fault the pre-race set up at all. Great work. 10/10.

With everything in place I made a few purchases in the retail tent and headed off to the apartment my friend had rented and a welcome pasta dinner and a nice comfy bed. not forgetting the race number temporary tatoos....

Race Morning

Alarm set for 3:30am (yikes!) and a nice porridge breakfast with a cup of coffee then off to the race. Arrival was smooth and they parked us in a nice close car park. Full access to transition was great, meaning I could put nutrition both on my bike and in my run kit bag. Then it was in to the wetsuit and off to the swim start. We were allowed in the water 15 minutes early, making it possible to have a short warm-up before the off, which was most welcome.

The Swim

Having the National Water Sports Centre as the host venue means a nice simple swim. It's in the rowing lake, so it's just a straight length up the lake, round two buoys at the end and then straight back again, minimal sighting needed. A nice easy exit slope as well. The water was a comfortable 20 degrees, so perfect for a wetsuit swim.

It's a mass start of 1,200 athletes so the swim start is a bit hectic. They do provide four different estimated swim time bays to help break everyone up a bit. Personally I started out at the front of the 70-90 minute bay meaning I got away cleanly and a lot of the faster swimmers from the earlier two bays were ahead of me by the time I merged into the main swim lane. A friend in one of the faster bays had a less enjoyable swim start, having his goggles kicked off in the melee.

Great end of the swim with marshals to help you out of the water and also wetsuit strippers if you need them. Transition was a bit busy as I was out right among the main mass of swimmers. Could do with it being just a bit wider so that people accessing their kit bags don't block the corridor where others want to get past. Other than that, I think it's a great set up with lots of potential for a fast swim if you can get the positioning right and find some space. 10/10.

The Bike

The bike course is made up of two separate loops. You start doing the southern loop, then the northern one and then finally around the southern one again before heading back to Holme Pierrepont. The southern loop is mostly small rural roads and a couple of small villages. It's pretty flat, very quiet and quite scenic. The northern loop has a few more hills, including one short steepish one, and takes place on some busier roads.

The traffic management company did a fantastic job on all the junctions, keeping the bikes moving at all times. I can't think of any point where I had to stop at a junction or roundabout throughout the whole 112 miles! Apparently the bike course can be wind effected, but the wind was very light on race day, so I can't really comment on that. The only real weakness in the bike course is the last couple of miles where you have to pass down a poorly surfaced lane, over some little speed bumps and along the slightly gravelly drive of Holme Pierrepont Hall, but it's an interesting house architecturally so that made it more bearable.

Feed stations along the bike route were nicely spaced, with six in total. Very well organised and offering water, High-5 energy drinks, gels and bananas. Also toilets at every feed station. The volunteers were fantastic and did an amazing job both at handing out supplies and cheering everyone along. Someone even held my bike for me when I had to jump off to use the loo!

Perhaps the only downside I could find on the bike leg was that there was a fair bit of unpunished drafting going on, despite there being a number of marshal bikes on course. Looking at the results I can see some penalties for drafting but none of those being for names I recognised from out on the course (competitors had names on their race numbers). It's partly understandable on the first loop when the bike course was pretty busy – very hard to leave 12 meters without someone overtaking and cutting in. However, being passed by a peleton of eight riders at about 90 miles, clearly working together, was very frustrating after I had worked so hard to keep in front of them!

Arriving back to T2 your bike is taken from you and racked so all you have to worry about is transitioning to the run. By this time I was further up the field, so the change tent was much quieter and easier to get through. Great thought to have a suntan lotion dispensing marshal at the start of the run.

Great bike course, excellent junction management and feed stations, but better enforcement of drafting rules in the last part of the bike leg required for the non-elite riders. 9/10.

The Run

I found the run tough (but that's the subject of my race analysis post). However, the course did everything possible to make it easy. Nice and flat, not too many tight turns and very regular feed stations.

It's set up as a lap of the lake, out along the bank of the River Trent in to Nottingham and back, another lake lap, another trip to Nottingham and back, finishing with two more lake laps. I know some people didn't like so many laps round the lake, but I found the predictability of the route really helped with my breaking down the run into manageable segments. Finally you finish down the orange/red carpet and through a finish tape to cries of “Chris Turner you are an Outlaw”. Amazing feeling!

The feed stations on the run were awesome. Superbly stocked with water, High-5 energy, High-5 Zero, flat coke, gels, crisps, Jaffa Cakes, bananas and an ample supply of soaking wet sponges. The sponges were definitely needed as mid-afternoon was rather warm and sunny. The volunteers at the run feed stations went above and beyond to ensure everyone was catered for and I'm sure that I'm not alone citing them as a reason for me completing the run successfully.

A great run course with just enough interest to stop it getting boring and enough predictability to allow breaking down into manageable bits. Superb feed stations. 10/10.


After going through the finish line and collecting your medal, a lot of races just leave you hanging to sort yourself out. This one doesn't.

After passing through the medical tent (which I didn't need, but who did a great job patching up one of my friends who came off his bike during the bike leg) you then collect your race t-shirt. Nice to get a good quality t-shirt for everyday wear rather than yet another cheap technical top.

Next up you have to climb some stairs (but there were plenty of offers of assistance if needed) and into a tent for a free post-race massage. Very welcome and a great start to recovery. I was then able to access the transition tent to get changed and collect a few essentials – no rush for you to get your kit out. Finally it was off to the feed tent for a nice meal with some of my team mates who finished just a bit quicker than me. Great choice of three high protein meals (I had a chicken and rice dish) plus pudding and drinks. Again, it's all about the recovery!

I was then able to go cheer a friend through the last laps of the run before going to collect my kit and bike, wander back to the car and return to my apartment for a most welcome bath and sleep.

Great post-race facilities. Getting straight into recovery mode (plus some yoga on the Monday) means that today, Tuesday, I'm mostly recovered apart from slightly sore calf muscles. 10/10.


One of the best points about the Outlaw Triathlon is the atmosphere. Wherever you went if felt like there was a buzz. The race village was always busy and the feed stations were amazing. The welcome at the finish was superb – even finishing in 193rd place I was made to feel like I had just won a major race!

Only one improvement to suggest to the organisers: while running through Nottingham I heard quite a few comments from the public like “it must be a race as they've all got numbers on”. A few big banners along the run route publicising the race and the distances involved would certainly help engage the support of those interested by-standers (and maybe get them on board for future events!)

Great race buzz that can't be manufactured, only achieved by people who are genuinely passionate about what they do. 10/10.


A great race on a good course - great if you want to go for a fast time. I managed 11:08:08 in my first attempt at this distance, so I'm super happy! Well organised with a passionate events team. Great atmosphere and wonderful marshals. I'd thoroughly recommend it - especially if it's a first time stepping up to long distance triathlons.

As with all these events there's a lot of organisation involved so the entry cost is pretty high. However, I certainly felt that it was pretty good value for money. I'd certainly consider doing it again at some point in the future. Overall score 10/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment